Nørgård’s America

Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 8:00 PM

Join us for a pre-concert talk with Neeraj Mehta at 7:30pm


  • Arcana
  • Spell
  • Plutonian Ode *
  • Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
  • Seadrift
  • ( * U.S. Premiere )

photo courtesy of Manu Theobald

Nørgård’s America highlights the influence of American music and poetry on the Danish master. Arcana, written during an early-seventies California residency, filters the minimalist gestures of Terry Riley and Philip Glass through Nørgård’s distinctive, developing voice. Spell, written just three years later, uses Nørgård’s signature Infinity Series to generate an organic tapestry of endlessly unfolding rhythm and melody. The juxtaposition of these opening pieces demonstrates how quickly and dramatically Nørgård’s music blossomed as the Infinity Series began to influence and inspire his compositional process.

American poetry has had a substantial presence in Nørgård’s output, and the program continues with works inspired by Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman. Plutonian Ode sets Ginsberg’s poem in an explosive duet for soprano and cello. This work is typical of Nørgård’s wild ‘Wölfli period’ of the 1980s, in which he became deeply immersed in the works of the Swiss schizophrenic outsider artist Adolf Wölfli. These works can seem to be a violent departure from the shimmering surfaces of the 1970’s Infinity Series works, but in fact they are a dramatic evolution of the same techniques and concepts.

Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, a more recent work from 2008, is inspired by Hawaiian chant and the ‘latent wave-character’ that can be found throughout Nørgård’s entire body of work. With Seadrift, (the Whitman poem from which Out of the Cradle… takes its title) the program returns to the purer Infinity Series works of the 1970’s. The use of Baroque instruments highlights the ineffable way that Nørgård’s unique approach to orchestration serves his overall concept; he has a uniquely philosophical approach to instrumental color that makes it an almost biological aspect of his music’s structure.

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